You may be surprised to learn that in some nations around the world, crossbows aren’t subject to any specific regulations at all.
In others, they are treated as a firearm, despite there being no combustion involved in propelling the projectile.
For instance, in America, it is even more complicated as each state has its own set of laws on the subject.
Therefore, crossbow owners in America need to be particularly vigilant in knowing the different laws concerning crossbows, especially when traveling with one.
Are crossbows legal in California? This is one of the questions we’ll answer today so that you have all the info you need for your next hunting trip.
Are Crossbows Legal in California?
Asking whether or not are crossbows legal in California is very sensible if you are considering going there in possession of one.
California is known for bucking the trend on various laws, from cannabis to air pollution, so where do they stand on crossbows?
Even if you are currently based in Arizona or Utah, what is legal in your backyard is often quite different from what is legal in your neighbors’.
As a crossbow owner or wanna-be crossbow owner, you will be pleased to hear that, indeed, crossbows are legal in California.
The laws surrounding crossbow use are also slightly more relaxed in California compared to what you’ll come across in some other states.
Let’s take a closer look at California crossbow laws so that you’re better informed before heading there.
California Crossbow Laws
While it is legal to own a crossbow in the state of California, it is essential to know that they don’t recognize crossbows as archery equipment when it comes to hunting.
Instead, crossbows are treated more akin to firearms than anything else.
Hunting With a Crossbow: Timing
One of the most popular reasons for owning a crossbow is to hunt with it. In California, it is legal to hunt with a crossbow during the firearm season only.
Legal During Firearm Season
In some states, hunting with a crossbow is more restricted than it is in California, and some state’s laws are more relaxed.
For example, in some states, only disabled people are allowed to hunt using a crossbow, with no exceptions.
In other states, crossbow hunting is restricted to deer and big game season only.
California sits in the middle of these by allowing crossbow hunting during all gun seasons.
However, exceptions are made for disabled people who are allowed to use crossbows for hunting during archery season.
Legal During Archery Season for Disabled Persons ONLY
You may be entitled to a disability waiver if you have a disease or disability that prevents you from manually drawing and holding a regular bow.
To become eligible, you first need to contact the California Fish and Game Commission to obtain a waiver.
They will require you to provide all of the information listed below, which you must also carry on you while hunting at all times.
- Personal details (full name, address, DOB, driver’s license number, and signature)
- Disability information (description of your disease, disability, or illness)
- Physician’s information (full name, address, license number, and signature)
Although owning a crossbow is legal, carrying and discharging it comes with some restrictions, just like any other weapon.
Carrying a Crossbow
It is legal to openly carry a crossbow in most places, as long as it’s not loaded and cocked.
Places where crossbows (and any and all weapons, for that matter) are strictly prohibited include colleges and universities.
Whether they are public or private, no weapons of any kind are allowed within teaching buildings, student housing, or on any campuses.
Anywhere that it is illegal to carry a firearm in California, it is also unlawful to carry a crossbow.
This goes for state parks, public buildings, and hospitals. You must also not be in possession of a crossbow while picketing.
When transporting your crossbow in a vehicle of any kind, it is also illegal to have an arrow seated in the flight rail.
This law covers all motorized vehicles, including cars and trucks, as well as boats.
Using and Discharging a Crossbow
Firstly, you need to make sure that your crossbow is legal. In California, crossbows are required to have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.
Crossbows that are too weak to propel an arrow forward (horizontally) less than 130 yards are also prohibited (not including the use of flu-flu arrows).
Secondly, as with any firearm, you need to be aware of your surroundings when shooting your weapon.
It is against the law to hunt with or discharge a crossbow within 150 yards of any occupied building.
That is, unless you are the owner or person in possession of this building or have the express permission of this person.
It is also prohibited to intentionally shoot a crossbow across a public road or path in a reckless manner.
Furthermore, there are restrictions on the type of arrows or bolts you use when hunting, depending on your prey.
When hunting big game, you need to ensure that arrows and bolts using broadheads are at least 7/8th inches wide.
If the broadheads you use are not fixed-width, they will be measured in their extended or open positions.
Small Game and Birds
When hunting small game and birds (except pheasant), any bolt or arrow may be used, excluding those with explosive or tranquilizing arrowheads.
Pheasant and Migratory Birds
When hunting pheasant and migratory birds, you must use flu-flu fletching arrows or bolts specifically designed to travel shorter distances.
Hunter Orange Requirement
You are not required by law to wear hunter or blaze orange when hunting with a crossbow in California.
Although the DFW strongly recommends that you do, which is visible from all sides, when hunting any kind of big game or upland bird.
California Archery Laws
Although crossbows are treated as firearms when it comes to hunting, archery laws still apply to their general ownership and use.
Therefore, if you’re looking to buy a crossbow or travel to California with one in your possession, then you need to brush up on California archery laws, too.
These can be found (in full) on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.
You can also look out for printed copies of their laws and regulations in locations set up to sell hunting licenses.
There are also many archery clubs and associations in California that you can join to become more acquainted with the sport in general.
Most of the laws are common-sense laws and apply to most weapons in most states. We’re talking about the laws that prohibit bowhunting while intoxicated, for example.
Bowhunting (like any hunting) while intoxicated is just bad news for you and everyone unfortunate enough to be around you.
However, there are other laws that are a little less obvious, which is why it’s important to study them to become a responsible crossbow owner.
For example, did you know that it is illegal to possess a bow in a game refuge? Or that if you’re bowhunting (legally) during archery season, it’s unlawful to possess a firearm?
And that’s just general fish and game code.
In California, it is illegal to shoot a bow within 150 yards of a designated camping area.
It is also illegal to carry a bow within units of the Parks and Recreation Department—unless it’s stored in a vehicle in such a way that prevents easy access.
Traveling to California will include many more local regulations on the type of game or fish you’re allowed to hunt.
You also need to acquaint yourself with further restrictions on areas you’re allowed to hunt in.
Finally, it’s illegal for civil addict parolees to be in possession of any type of bow.
We won’t go into any further detail here, but it’s definitely worth looking over the federal and state archery laws before becoming an archer.
Can Felons Own Crossbows in California?
Since felons are strictly prohibited from owning firearms, asking if felons are allowed to own crossbows is a completely valid question.
This is especially true, considering the fact that California state law seems to treat crossbows very similar to firearms in many other ways.
However, where felons are concerned and the laws surrounding this matter, crossbows are not considered firearms.
California and federal laws classify the crossbow under archery equipment, even if they do restrict its use to firearm season.
Are Bows Legal in California?
Now you know that all bows are legal in California; moving forward, you just need to remember the difference in laws concerning crossbows against other bow types.
It is legal to own a crossbow in California.
However, it’s important to remember that they’re treated more like a gun than a piece of archery equipment when it comes to hunting season.
Hunting with a crossbow is only allowed during firearm season, so plan your next hunting trip to California with these dates in mind.
Lastly, it goes without saying that no one should be hunting at all without a valid hunting license.